Technological watch

Effects of physicochemical properties and co-existing zinc agrochemicals on the uptake and phytotoxicity of PFOA and GenX in lettuce

Even though the potential toxicity and treatment methods for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have attracted extensive attention, the plant uptake and accumulation of PFAS in edible plant tissues as a potential pathway for human exposure received little attention. Our study in a hydroponic system demonstrated that perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and its replacing compound, 2,3,3,3-tetrafluoro-2-(heptafluoropropoxy) propanoic acid (GenX) displayed markedly different patterns of plant uptake and accumulation. For example, the root concentration factor (RCF) of PFOA in lettuce is almost five times of that of GenX while the translocation factor (TF) of GenX is about 66.7% higher than that for PFOA. The co-presence of zinc amendments affected the phyto-effect of these two compounds and their accumulation in plant tissues, and the net effect on their plant accumulation depended on both the properties of Zn amendments and PFAS. Zinc oxide nanoparticles (ZnONPs) at 100 mg/L did not affect the uptake of PFOA in either lettuce roots or shoots; however, Zn2+ at the same concentration significantly increased PFOA accumulation in both tissues. In contrast, both Zn amendments significantly lowered the accumulation of GenX in lettuce roots, but only ZnONPs significantly hindered the GenX accumulation in lettuce shoots. The co-exposure to ZnONPs and PFOA/GenX resulted in lower oxidative stress than the plants exposed to PFOA or GenX alone. However, both zinc agrochemicals with or without PFAS led to lower root dry biomass. The results shed light on the property-dependent plant uptake of PFAS and the potential impact of co-existing nanoagrochemicals and their dissolved ions on plant uptake of PFOA and GenX.


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 1914.